Stockholm Syndrome

I’d often seen the runway kissed by refugees
and bought-out hostages, an odd drunk and those
renouncing the flying for good, and thought
that surely there must be worse places to touch
freedom. Between the tailfins and the gray town
in the distance, gravity cropped up only at a newsstand,
and fizzled out with the first bite of the octane damp,
the view of the parking bunkers and stacked hovels
by the motorway. Everything else, before and after,
could have fitted into half a cigarette, the sickly sunshine
and endless nights, the flags and oaths (the very language
I wanted to forget), the Celts, the Saxons, the housebroken
Vikings in crowded trains, hopping frozen behind stalls
selling tat to tourists. Not enough time for loving because of
other loves, nor codebooks nor guides except the perennial
A to Z of not giving offense. The words were always there,
smooth like pebbles (soap on the tongue), and sometimes
the mockery of a commonplace, like that time when we put
up a blackened Union Jack instead of curtains between us
and the Poles on the scaffolding across the road.
On occasions it seemed good enough to be happy or scared
with the rest, to bring home from the terraces and parades
that sly acceptance, to sit in the shadow of atavism as under
a palm tree, and chew blissfully on the sweet dirt, the taste
of the crowd. Or for an evening make a shortcut through
someone else’s work, an incomer’s story of a homeland
gained not lost, a fat compendium of patriotic verse;
in essence, cheat again. In other words — never spend
too much on a suit rarely worn    ...    if there had been
loyalty at all, it fell on faces and disappeared with them,
on promises and smiles, crazy schemes for finding
undiscovered shores. The world, I thought, could be unfolded
anywhere, if only you could fit it into a travel bag, into a clear,
irrevocable word. It is strange perhaps that even today
I think the same, still in the same place, buried firmly
like a rock in a graveyard, as heavy, and as pointlessly
decorated by lightness. The vows of yesterday skim
the heights like animal shapes we recognize in passing
clouds; postcards sleep in the unread books. Just like
the nomadic tribes used to, I learn of myself only
with my feet now, from the single map that remained.
And when streets bring the shortened future a bit nearer,
with open palm I seek the roughness of the facades,
and in the friendly pain I find the coarse, unperfected
truth of things. This, I think then, must be what it’s like
in the bellies of gigantic animals: wet and quiet, almost
pleasant, once you get used to the smell of those who
passed through before you, and the immutable truth
that there is no going forward or anywhere else    ...    
 
Translated from the Bosnian